How to Train Like a Runner
It’s no secret that living a healthy lifestyle can help improve your overall health, and exercise is key in a healthy lifestyle. One form of exercise many people turn to is running, which can be a great way to improve your cardiovascular health, de-stress and clear your mind. If you’re new to running, you might find yourself asking the question, “How do I get started with my training?” Here are some how-to’s on training like a running pro!
1. Set a goal – First, if you are serious about running, the best thing to do is set a goal before you start. Maybe it is just running for one mile without stopping, or perhaps there is a specific race you want to train for. Setting a goal will help you stay focused and create a regular running schedule. Pick a reasonable time frame to train for your goal, and each day try to work towards reaching it.
2. Create a training plan – When prepping to meet your goal, follow a training plan. Even if it isn’t the greatest plan, at least it can be changed and adjusted as needed. If it produces great results, you can follow it again. If you don’t like the results, try a new plan. Google can pull up multiple plans for any race distance. Your local running shoe store can often help as well, and many offer free group training runs. You can also consider getting a coach for a more personalized approach.
For the beginner, perhaps someone considering doing a 5K for the first time, I’d recommend starting with walking. Once you can walk briskly three times a week for 30 minutes, start adding in some jogging. Break up the 30 minutes into six sets of five minutes. Spend most of the five minutes walking and a little bit of it jogging. Each week, replace some walking time with more running time. In eight to 10 weeks, you’ll be running 30 minutes straight, which will be close to a 5K for most people.
Beyond this, use the 10% rule to keep building up. Increase your total weekly mileage by no more than about 10%. Consider taking a de-loading week once a month – building mileage for three weeks, then reducing your mileage around 30-40% for a week to let your body rest and recover before resuming building up.
3. Pick a good pair of shoes –To maximize your running comfort, you want the right shoe for you. Multiple research studies have shown that we are not good at matching shoes to feet. We cannot look at the shape of your foot or watch you walk barefoot and recommend the best type of shoe for you. In fact, regardless of your “foot type” (flat, neutral, high arched), feet tend to move through a similar range of motion when running. My advice is to shop at a specialty running shoe store that will allow you to take several new shoes for a short run and pick the pair that feels best while running. Running in a few different pairs each week has also been shown to help reduce injuries.
4. Improve your running form – To help prevent injury, treat running as a skill that can be improved by working to improve your running form. While running, follow these tips for better form:
- Maintain good posture with your shoulders back and relaxed and engage your core.
- Gaze forward and avoid tilting your head down.
- Keep your arms relaxed with your elbows bent at a comfortable angle and keep your hands loose. Avoid swinging your arms across your body or reaching forward. Instead, focus on pulling your elbow back and then letting your arm naturally swing forward.
- Don’t worry about changing your natural foot strike (heel, mid-foot, forefoot), but do work to land close to your body and not over-stride far out in front.
- Increasing your cadence (how many steps you take per minute) is the easiest way to reduce over-striding.
- Driving your leg behind you can also help you land closer. Try pushing the road behind you while running.
5. Include Strengthening Exercises – Besides taking it slow with any changes to your training, the next best way to prevent running injuries is to add some strength work. While we correctly think of running as an endurance/cardio exercise, it requires more strength than most people realize. Running doubles the force of bodyweight pushing down on us. Besides needing to overcome this force to propel ourselves forward, we also need to control forces hitting us from front and back, side to side, and rotationally as well! Unfortunately, just running isn’t usually sufficient to maximize the strength needed to control these forces. However, one or two dedicated strengthening sessions a week can go a long way to keeping you running healthy.
I use gait analysis to help narrow down the areas runners most need to improve on. We frequently include a variety of body weight and resistance exercises targeting the core, hips, and feet. If you would like a plan tailored to improve your running, then please see me for a gait analysis!
However, if you’re already battling an injury, then we should start with a regular doctor’s visit to get you fixed up. If you begin to have pain while running that is sharp or in a joint, or if the same spot hurts for three runs in a row, it is best to get diagnosed and treated quickly before it becomes a worse problem.